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tv   The Stream  Al Jazeera  January 23, 2014 7:30pm-8:01pm EST

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offend people, i'm here. >> we have a right to know what's in our food and monsanto do not have the right to hide it from us. >> so join the conversation and make it your own. >> watch the stream. >> and join the conversation online @ajamstream. hi i'm lisa fletcher and you are in "the stream." its core leadership has been decimated, by is al-qaeda making a comeback? >> our digital producer, wajahat ali is here as always. waj since 9/11 al-qaeda has been viewed by many as our biggest problem. >> yeah, you talked about the
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december makes, but our online community is very sceptical. and just today, lisa, al-qaeda's number 2 released an auto urging the groups to stop fighting one another. and paul says . . . we have also heard terms like frankenste frankenste frankenstein and hydra. and check this out . . . so this is very topical.
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very relevant. >> i think paul's tweet is really having saying the u.s. has created a monster. we'll get into that. with bin laden dead, and it's top ranks on the run, president obama says that al-qaeda core has been decimated. he said the organization was on the path to defeat. but many analysts are highlighting a resurgence of al-qaeda. so how is al-qaeda evolved since 9/11? and does it still constitute a serious threat to u.s. national security? we're joined by a senior fellow at the foundation for defense of democracies, and a prominent blogger and professor of history at the university of michigan, and former senior advisor at the
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state department who worked on digital diplomacy to the muslim world. juan how is the al-qaeda today different than the al-qaeda that attacked the u.s. on 9/11? >> well, in my view it's a mistake to refer to core al-qaeda and the affiliates as al-qaeda. the original al-qaeda was multinational and it made a decision to hit the far united states first because it felt like the united states was propping up these local states. so the things that are being al-qaeda in iraq and syria are not like that at all. they are not multinational. they have a national focus, and they are not interested, i think, very much in hitting the
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united states. they are just rad sunni islam, the political islam. >> when the president's claim was challenged by pointing out that their flag flies all over iraq and syria obama responded . . . david i want to go to you, a significant portion of al-qaeda leadership has been taken out. how has that effected their ability to coordinate and carry out any kind of attack? >> the first thing is i question whether a significant portion has been taken out and down for the count. when we look at this group it's
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a clandestine organization it is cellar in node. it is very difficult to beat such an organization through a strategy that is just based on attrition of leadership which is what our drone campaign has been based on. >> so are obama's comments lulling americans into a false sense of security? this >> i wouldn't say that. but we have a perception about what beats an enemy like this. and there is debate about what could be considered al-qaeda. i respectfully disagree with the professor. but the question is who the core leadership actually can exercise a degree of control over these affiliates, and in syria you see some examples of this.
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there is a high level leader with two groups. and what this indicates to me is if the senior leadership has an ability to influence affiliates, then ultimately while professor cole is right, they are trying to advance the goals, with the u.s. being a target because they thought the u.s. would stop them from accomplishing their goals within the region. >> david do these affiliates present a threat? >> not necessarily an immediate threat to the security of the united states, but they -- they do represent, certainly a threat to -- to -- to the region. what we see now in al-qaeda is al-qaeda is much more decentralized, much more dependent on its affiliates, its allies, its ability to inspire home grown terrorists. the fact that these
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organizations have reached out to the al-qaeda group, indicates that the name still has some attraction. the question is whether al-qaeda leadership by insinuating itself into these local conflicts will be able over time to basically bring them into the al-qaeda ideology of attacking the far enemy, the united states. >> our community is chiming in. nick agrees . . . and lisa we should add yemen as
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well. and al-qaeda's number 2 said al-qaeda's most important strategic goal was quote seize control of a state or part of a state somewhere in the muslim world, and without achieving this goal our actions will mean nothing. and another goal is for the united states to achieve death by a thousand cuts. does the new al-qaeda share those goals? >> absolutely. they do share the same goals. as to the first one we can see this by the fact that they do control some territory. in northern syria, it has been controlled for quite sometime. in somalia, al-shabab, they still control some geographic area in the southern part of the country. and when they do, one of the first things they try to do is establish their very harsh version of sharia law.
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as so the second their goal was instrumental. there was a good study done by a g jihadist think tank. if he were to target the saudi regime, they would have the saudis down on them after the claire exes would be against them. the claireexes would have to sang shown the group. but you have seen these long-standing dictators actually get toppled which has opened up knew opportunities. >> president obama demanded bashar al-assad to step down, but with al-qaeda affiliated
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groups now assisting bash barb, how can we stop empowering those groups?
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kill each other, that's not a sign of good command and control, or a unified organization. so i really discount these guys being -- you know, anything like core al-qaeda. bin laden wouldn't have had to plead. but they have had a lot of success. probably a good two-thirds of the liberated territory is now controlled by extremists, and the united states simply is not interested in supporting them or in furtherering their goals or allowing them to take over damascus. although the congress has pressed president obama to arm the rebels -- we haven't seen anything serious on that scale, and i think that likely the u.s. will do what it did in the case of the algear -- algerian civil war. >> do these pleas fall on deaf ears or could they get some
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traction and unify some of these more rogue militias? >> i don't see unity coming to the conflict in syria, and in fact instead i see syria disintegrating into a mosaic of pieces of territory controlled by local militias, in part by government, in part by more extremist elements. and the united states and any other external actor are really going to be marginal to the conflict; that is without a major military intervention, and i certainly don't see that in the cards. so syria for the foreseeable future is condemned to continue conflict. >> brian you mention external actors and our facebook is really talking about these external actors . . .
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and i want to get a video comment. listen in. >> al-qaeda remains a huge concern for america. but they can't pull off another 9/11. even though they seem to be in a lot of places and on the internet. and this includes syria. most terrorism like all politics is local, and most of those fighting in syria today don't want to blow up time square tomorrow. the bottom is we have to keep our eye on those who do. this is our obligation as americans and we have to meet it. >> i want to go to you, the shiite iran block versus the sunni saudi arabia gulf states. >> they are receiving a good
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deal of support from a number of gulf states. there is a question about -- where the aid is actually directed. i was doing field research in cut tar earlier, and it is really more intended to reach the syrian opposition, like the syrian islamic front, and is getting to others as a second order effect. >> brian is the territory that al-qaeda occupies in syria completely under al-qaeda's control? >> no, i think control has to be put in quotes here. the fact is that the syrian army was obliged to withdraw from portions of the country, because large portions are comprised of
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sunni conscripts, and their reliability could not be guaranteed. it was more important for the syrian government to protect the capitol and the ethnic and sectarian enclaves that are loyal to the regime. that accounts for a number of the so-called rebel advances. it is not certain that they exercise control, although, where they do have some control, it appears that they haven't learned many lessons from the past because they are imposing a harsh form of sharia in some of these areas, and that provokes local resistance. >> i'll say quickly, one thing that i think is going on is the assad regime is doing a lot less to fight against extremist factions than to fight other factions. this has been a very deliberate
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strategy from the outset, the more extremist factions come to represent the face of the opposition, and the less likely countries like the united states will be to support any faction within the conflict. >> shift gears a little bit. talk about the level of sophistication of al-qaeda in terms of its use of social media. >> you need to keep in mind this isn't your big brother's al-qaeda. and what al-qaeda is doing is morphing into something more like anonymous. and i think the statement is telling. and you are going to see that playing out on the ground. we have seen this before, where they go and they start putting these harsh measures in, and you start getting local populations upset. you are going to start seeing
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things fall apart that way, and while the nature has changed and it is more brood, it is much more shallow, i think. >> our community is chiming in . . . and we have a video comment from amen. >> for me the -- the biggest shift is from closed source pass word protect forums to more open source, open access in the profession of jihadi material, whether photos and statements and the like, but i see it more preaching to the choir rather than winning more followers for al-qaeda ideology. >> what we're seeing is gee had
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disin syria, they are using vine, youtube, how are they using social media in syria for recruitment and advertising. >> well, these are young people who are going there and using the only tools that they know how to get the message out. it's youth talking to youth in the only language that they know. so don't mistake that for being some kind of orchestrated effort to use social media to pop gait this. it's simply a factor of other people going there that are already speaking this medium. >> how do you evaluate whether or not these social media messages are resinating. people here will like or tweet or respond, but that doesn't
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mean they are engaged. there is no consequence to it. how do you determine who is for real and who is not? >> it's tough. because we see fads come and go on social media, and even though someone might like some things that they see, it doesn't necessarily illustrate a depth of connection to it. also because of the nature of what is happening in syria, and western countries aren't directly involved on the ground, it is much more of a sectarian sheen on it than -- than others, i think that people are -- are going to project on to it, their preexisting opinion, so you are seeing a lot of sectarian disruption happening among muslim communities in the west that is a biproduct. >> talk about what you call gee
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jehadi tourism. >> some of them might be referred to as jihadi tourists. they remain at a safe distance from any fighting. they take pictures of themselves with their cell phones and -- and send these back home to establish their credentials. it is possible thatment some of them over the long run will be radicalized. it does have some resonance with their friends back home, but it is -- it is -- doesn't represent a -- a significant threat right now to -- to the security of any of these other countries. >> all right. we have talked about al-qaeda growing sophistication on social media, but what about u.s. online efforts in this response. more on that after the break, but first here are a couple of other stories we're following.
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>> start with one issue education...
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♪ we're back and we're talking about the evolution of al-qaeda particularly on social media. you were active with the state department's digital outreach to the muslim world. do you think we're winning the battle there? >> i think it's a mixed record.
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government is much better at counter terrorism, than counter extremism. and any time a go entity reaches directly into the social media stream and tries to influence the conversation, you are going to get a very spectacle audience. look at the way certain companies cultivate audiences that second their messages for them. and i think this is the best roll for government. i think we have just really started that process of empowering and encouraging like-minded people to speak up against extreme thenarratives. >> our community has been chiming in about whether or not we have made advanced against al-qaeda. we didn't even decide on a definition here. and jared says . . .
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>> and professor i want to go to you with us, look into the future, has the united states if you will, won its, quote unquote, war with al-qaeda according to your definition of it and will it? >> the united states won hands down -- in the late '90s, al-qaeda had control of afghanistan which was a major country. they have nothing now. and the -- the united states whooped them. they are hiding out.
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and i just would like to point out that in morocco, tunisia, egypt, there has been a strong public reaction against extremism, and you have had the rise of moderate muslim fundamentalist parties like the renaissance in tunisia which have won in elections and played politics in the western european way. so i would say most of the muslim world, al-qaeda eideolog is on the ropes. >> let me go back to this issue about the media, you know, there may be considerable skepticism,
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but al-qaeda isn't selling a lot of cards either, despite a communications campaign aimed at radicallizing home-grown terrorists. they may have created a virtual army, but thus far it remains virtual. we -- we have no evidence of any deep reservoirs of support for al-qaeda. the ideology has gained absolutely no traction among american muslims. the numbers of individuals who have been arrested for providing material support or more seriously plotting terrorist attacks in this country on behalf of this ideology is just a tiny -- a tiny turnout. >> i'm going to have to pause you there, brian. because we're unfortunately out of time. but thanks to all of our guests. and to our online community for
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another great discussion. until next time, waj and i will see you online. ♪ everyone, welcome to al jazeera america. snowden speaks. the man behind the nsa leak goes on the defensive. he says he is welcome to talk, but clemson is still off the table. tragedy in quebec. fire tears through a senior center, and dozens of people are missing. >> women across america need to stand up and say enough of that nonrecess. >> gender politics surprising comments from a republican leader who says democratic


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